The Chinese Communist government sternly warned Olympic athletes not to engage in any unauthorized political speech or post anything provocative through the relatively “open” Internet service at the Olympic Village, but Chinese state media roundly applauded an American athlete for gushing over the “incredible” accommodations she found in Beijing.
The Olympic Village was provided with special Internet connections that allow access to websites and services forbidden to Chinese citizens, such as Twitter and Facebook. Supposedly, these special connections would not be monitored by Chinese authorities, but no one even pretended to believe that.
The “open” Internet access came with warnings that China would punish athletes for political speech or “racial propaganda,” which, of course, would include any discussion of China’s genocide against the Uyghur Muslims.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) actually held a seminar in January in which it warned athletes to avoid all discussion of human rights to ensure their own safety. American athletes were advised to bring burner cell phones to evade Chinese surveillance.
However, when 27-year-old American luger Summer Britcher filmed herself dashing about the Beijing Olympic Village in delight and praising the Chinese government for her accommodations, the video was allowed to go viral and was promoted by Chinese state media, along with other athlete videos that made China’s “closed loop” Olympics system look good.
The state-run Global Times offered pats on the head all around on Tuesday:
“I have something incredible to share,” said US athlete Summer Britcher in a TikTok video, in which she shows off and details the luxurious remote-controlled beds the athletes sleep in at the Olympic Village in Beijing. In a follow-up clip, Britcher was seen happily tucked in and said, “I’m in Zero-G mode now. It’s phenomenal.”
More than that, videos showing athletes learning Chinese Kung Fu, high-tech setups unveiled in the villages, such as robots bartenders and meals delivered from the ceiling in the restaurants of the Beijing Winter Olympics villages also went viral online.
… Many athletes who’ve been approaching the end of their Olympic careers also thanked China’s efforts in holding the once in a four-year international sports event during such a difficult time as pandemic still rages across the world.
“TikTok users have already engaged heavily with Olympics-related content, which has pulled in over 18 billion views on the platform,” the Global Times boasted, citing statistics from TikTok’s U.S. media partner, NBCUniversal.
TikTok is a Chinese-owned video microblogging platform suspected of posing security risks to its users and sharing their data with the Chinese government. The U.S. military has banned service members from using TikTok on government-issued devices. The Trump administration tried to ban TikTok outright, but the ban was blocked by federal court rulings, which the Biden administration chose not to appeal.